At what point is someone so non-participatory and unknowledgeable in nerd culture that no matter how they describe themselves they cannot be considered to be a true nerd? I mean, what's the threshold, the minimum passing requirement for nerd know-how? At what point does someone stop being a nerd and just becomes a poseur?
A nerd poseur! Until recently the very idea was laughably unthinkable. Who the hell ever heard of that? Until recently, nobody ever intentionally set out to be a nerd, the way people set out to be punk rockers or gangstas. Being a nerd was an accident, something that just happened because you were an outcast and outsider, and fantasy worlds, or math and science, became fixations to mentally escape a world that was unpleasant.
How things have changed! Nerd culture has taken over the world. Even attractive and wealthy people who never got an asthma attack in their lives try to be nerds. And comic book movies are Hollywood's biggest tent-pole genre now, the summer's bread and butter with two or three superhero movies a month. If you told me that would happen eight years ago, I would have burned you as a witch.
Let me describe to you something that happened to me when going to see Green Lantern with four or five supposed nerds.
Of the lot, I was the only one that read or knew anything about Green Lantern comics. Now that in and of itself doesn't mean anything since there are many different kinds of nerds into different things, and anyway, I'm more of a True Believer myself. Alright, no problem.
Then later on, there were promos for remakes of two old-school cult movies: a new Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (which many consider to be the best one of the lot) and Fright Night.
I was the only one that knew either of these were remakes. Now, Green Lantern is one thing but that's the point at which I started to wonder if something was up.
If I could go on a digression here for a minute, I don't see the point of remaking Fright Night, because as enjoyable a movie as the original Fright Night was, it was all the more interesting and original in the context it was released. The year Fright Night came out, slasher movies dominated horror films and it had been over two decades since Hammer made any of their gothic horror films. It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time in pop culture where the classic horror monsters like Vampires were so passé and old fashioned, that a vampire-themed monster horror film was incredibly refreshing and a change of pace.
That's the entire movie: a guy thinks his neighbor is a Vampire and because supernatural-type horror and Vampires are so laughably off the pop culture radar, nobody believes him – not even the pathetic has-been host of an old-timey horror show. It was like the Kingdom Come of gothic horror, with old school guys, wrinkles and all, come back to show the punks how it's done. Don't you get it? In a world of True Blood where Vampires are popular and everywhere, the entire idea behind Fright Night makes no sense.
The worst was yet to come, however. In conversation I brought up Lord of the Rings, and I realized that in a group of five nerds, I was the only one that read the entire series. It reminded me of that Twilight Zone episode where the ending was a guy realizes everyone in a bar is a werewolf but him. My God, even science fiction and Heinlein fans that hate fairies and dragons, who have never thrown dice with more than six sides in their lives…even they have read Lord of the Rings.
I mentioned before there is an absolute bare minimum needed to qualify as a nerd. Would anyone disagree that Lord of the Rings would be on there?
I doubt anything will come of this observation, though. When gangsta rap went mainstream, a lot of people became gangstas who didn't have the credibility to pull it off. In short, their sincerity was in question. The reason nothing like that will ever happen to nerds is nerds, as outcasts ourselves, we understand what it's like to be excluded from things and nerd cultures have an anxiety about ever excluding anybody.
Say you're a nerd and that's enough to be one – whether it's true or not.